Toru Miyoshi, former Santa Maria City Council member and Santa Barbara County Supervisor, submitted an opinion piece to this week's Santa Barbara Independent newspaper.
Miyoshi compellingly states, "It's possible that our city bureaucracy is engaged in a cover-up. Under these circumstances, a thorough investigation of all the allegations should be conducted by the State Attorney General to preserve the integrity of our local government."
Miyoshi charged that the current negative changes in our city have come about as the result of a series of decisions made by the Santa Maria City Council, former City Manager Tim Ness and Police Chief Danny Macagni
First, the City Council. Miyoshi said that by changing the office of City Administrator to City Manager, the council effectively gave Tim Ness complete hire and fire power over city department heads, who are not protected by employee unions.
Miyoshi feels that when Tim Ness fired former Police Chief John Sterling, despite the upswelling of support from the police officers in his department and a great outcrying by the citizens themselves, the message to all other city department heads was clear -- the city council will not intervene on your behalf. Department heads knew that Tim Ness now had complete power over their jobs and their pay checks, and they would need Tim Ness' approval before submitting recommendations to the City Council.
Next, Tim Ness. After terminating Chief Sterling, Tim Ness, in his now complete power to hire and fire, didn't advertise to hire an experienced, trained, gang suppression expert as the new police chief.
No. Instead, he promoted Danny Macagni into that position, an officer who, according to Miyoshi, "had no experience as a department head [emphasis added] . . . and used racial slurs ("wetbacks", "chinks", "niggers") and made no apology for such demeaning conduct." [emphasis added]
Miyoshi continues detailing allegations against Ness' chosen police chief by pointing to 2 areas.
First is the enormous sums of money paid by the city for a court case brought against Chief Macagni by an officer on his own force for biased hiring practices. This law suit cost the Santa Maria taxpayers over $115,000.
Miyoshi says, "It's worth noting that there is yet another lawsuit against Chief Macagni pending."[emphasis added] This one involves denial of civil rights.
Second is the complaint filed with the City of Santa Maria by a former SMPD officer, alleging serious misconduct on the part of Chief Macagni regarding the reporting of drug thefts by police officers in the department.
The details of this drug theft complaint and Chief Macagni's refusal to properly refer the allegations to the Internal Affairs department for investigation is fully detailed in this blog's entry Chief Macagni Cops Out.
Back to city administration mis-steps, Miyoshi points out that as a result of the complaint against Macgani regarding the drug thefts, an "independent" private investigator from the Los Angeles area was hired.
Miyoshi states, "I was informed by two sources that the 'private investigator' worked for the law firm that was defending the chief."
No wonder City Attorney Gilbert Trujillo, in response to this complaint, wrote, "...the investigator determined that your allegations of misconduct on the part of Chief Macagni were unfounded."
How can this be, when Miyoshi reports, "I was informed that the police officer who witnessed the alleged drug stealing was not even interviewed by the 'private investigator' ".
Miyoshi ends with the statement, "The high standards of law enforcement maintained by the late Chief Sterling must be re-established to reverse the corrosive trend corrupting our city."
Adding the recent botched arrest and killing of Officer Albert Covarrubias to the above allegations only makes the whole situation in Santa Maria worse.
Miyoshi's demand for a thorough investigation by the State Attorney General's office is clearly needed, to stop the cover-ups by the people who are supposed to be serving the citizens of Santa Maria.